Kelly-Anne Crean

Leading SEO experts reveal the top 8 most underrated ranking factors for 2022

15th Feb 2022 SEO Blog 11 minutes to read

When it comes to SEO and driving traffic to your website, we all know that there are a huge number of variables that go into ensuring that your website can rank as highly as possible in search engines. In fact, Google states that it uses 200 ranking factors in total to help it determine which results to serve for key terms!  

On top of that Google is continually introducing new algorithm updates, and recently that has been even more frequent than in previous years. The only thing that we do know about the future for sure is that Google will continue to adjust its ranking signals to best meet the needs of searchers.

All of this can make knowing exactly where to aim your SEO strategy and resources a seemingly impossible task if you don’t have your ear to the ground.  With so many ranking factors, and Google (at times) a little cryptic about which have the biggest impact, it is easy for anyone that’s just starting out to focus too much attention in the wrong areas. 

For this reason, we believe that reading industry news and training courses alone aren’t enough. Experience and studying real world results are also crucial to properly understanding SEO and the significance of various ranking factors. 

Given this, we decided to ask our SEO experts and a select panel of eight industry leading SEOs for their thoughts on what their experience reveals to be the most underrated SEO ranking factors in 2022. Our panel of SEO experts for this article are:

  • Buzz Carter – SEO Manager at DotcomBlinds
  • David Pask-Hughes – SEO Lead at VictorianPlumbing.co.uk
  • Joel Burrell – SEO Lead at Bourne Leisure – Butlin’s
  • Anastasia Letsos – SEO Manager at WayMore.io
  • Terry Lee – Digital Marketing and SEO Manager at Comms Express
  • Sarah Ricketts – Global SEO Manager at The Body Shop
  • Andy McGowan – SEO Manager at BBC Sport
  • Laura Condrut – SEO Manager at Contiki
  • Gary Hainsworth – Senior Organic Data Specialist at Koozai
  • James Johnson – SEO Specialist at Koozai

We received some very helpful advice from these highly regarded SEOs, which we are delighted to share with you here. So in no particular order, here are the top 8 most underrated ranking factors to look out for in 2022:

Internal Linking

Internal links are hyperlinks between two or more pages on your website. Although often done to link to relevant content assets or to encourage users to explore more of your site, internal linking can also be used to spread authority to key pages. Many of the SEO leaders we approached identified internal linking as one of the most powerful yet underrated ranking factors:

Buzz Carter – SEO Manager at DotcomBlinds said “For me, the most underrated ranking factor (underrated by SEOs not Google) is internal linking. We’re all well aware of the power of inbound links, but I’ve noticed not many SEOs bring that passion for links into their internal linking.

With internal links you can redirect link juice (please nobody kill me for saying that in 2022) around your website, resolve keyword cannibalisation issues and help solidify your website’s rankings by just setting up some internal links!”

David Pask-Hughes – SEO Lead at VictorianPlumbing.co.uk said “It shouldn’t be, but it’s almost a surprise each time you improve the ways you link to a particular landing page. I’ve seen loads of cases where some straightforward changes push that hard-to-budge page onto page one, resulting in notable gains in clicks. Take an ecommerce category page for example. Going through a process of adding links – with relevant anchor text – from relevant sub-categories, product pages and blog content often has a much bigger impact than you would initially expect.”

Joel Burrell – SEO Lead at Bourne Leisure – Butlin’s said “In my opinion one of the most underrated ranking factors is internal linking. Google wants to understand the content of your website. Via internal linking (and other signals) you are able to demonstrate the importance and relevance of content in the context of your own domain. Google is then able to better compare content with topical/market competitors and rank. Keyword optimised breadcrumbs are an example I have found to be particularly effective. SEO basics are severely underrated in general in my view.”

Anastasia Letsos – SEO Manager at WayMore.io said “One of the most underrated SEO trends for 2022, and for SEO in general, is internal linking. Internal links are used by Google’s algorithms to discover new content, with the company defining it as:

The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page. Pages with no internal links and widely known as orphaned pages are less likely to be discovered, even so, when these are not included on the sitemap or linked anywhere from the site. A simple tweak, which you have full control over, can go a long way in improving your site’s SEO and potentially Google ranking”.

Our Koozai SEO specialists agree that internal linking is an underrated ranking factor. At Koozai we have seen many clients get fantastic results simply by improving their internal linking, so we are not surprised that this seems to be a popular SEO tactic in 2022. 

Trending Content

Trending content is content which responds to subjects which are (you guessed it), trending! Normally produced quickly in response to news events or topics which are experiencing a surge in popularity on social media platforms, trending content is something that the SEO experts we spoke to at The Body Shop and the BBC feel is overlooked by many in the industry:

Sarah Ricketts – Global SEO Manager at The Body Shop saidAs important as content frequency is, assigning resource to publish trending content is usually overlooked as an important variable. In a fast moving world there is an appetite for constant information, meaning those searching want to be served content that is time sensitive, seasonal and on-trend. Google further supported this desire in its 2010 caffeine update conveying the importance on-trend content has in the algorithm, with visual timestamps further solidifying this demand.”

Andy McGowan – SEO Manager at BBC Sport said “It’s so easy to get caught up in implementing the newest and shiniest ranking factor coming out of Silicon Valley (which I’m not dismissing, but boooorrring) that you can forget what actually matters: Writing content that people are actually searching for. It seems almost painfully obvious. But I think as SEOs, we always have to go for the high volume/value keywords. When in actual fact, those search terms are highly competitive, expensive and take a lot of time and resource to even creep onto page 1. Ever found yourself writing really robotic, uninspiring content just to try and rank? Painful isn’t it. Sometimes, writing content on what’s trending today can be so much more valuable.” 

“The website I work for has no choice but to write for the here and now as it’s a news website at its core but I wish I knew how important reactive content was when I worked in an agency environment. With reactive content, you’re targeting the audience of today. You’re keeping your website fresh and dynamic which opens up a whole host of backlink opportunities. And, probably most importantly, you’re increasing your overall authority on the topic, potentially making it easier in the future to rank for those big broad keywords we’d all like to rank for. Google Trends is your friend. And there’s so much you can do with it to help build up your profile as a website that writes for the here and the now. Figure out what topic you want to build on and start at Google trends. You won’t always find content ideas every single day, but every now and then you’ll find an idea that gets you one step closer to ranking for the bigger picture.”

Topical Authority

Often closely associated with backlinks and content, ‘topical authority’ or ‘topical relevance’ has been heavily talked about in the worlds of SEO and digital PR over the last couple of years. Topical authority refers to the perceived authority that your website has in a particular subject or industry niche. James Johnson – our SEO Specialist here at Koozai explains why it is a key SEO consideration that should be top of mind for 2022:

“I believe that topical authority is becoming an ever-more important ranking factor for 2022 and beyond. By creating an all-encompassing content strategy that covers all associated entities and keywords within a particular niche, Google starts to associate your brand as being an authority on a subject matter. In order to rank for competitive buyer-intent keywords, it is becoming more crucial that businesses draw their attention to topically-related FAQ keywords that are associated with their products or services. These FAQ keywords typically have an informational intent behind them, however, when you cover these keywords in great detail it allows you to rank more effectively for competitive BOFU, buyer-intent keywords.”

Refreshing Content

By now we have all heard that ‘content is king’ an infinite number of times. But that doesn’t mean just whacking up a few blogs and then forgetting them forevermore. Terry Lee – Digital Marketing and SEO Manager at Comms Express says that refreshing content can go a long way to improving performance on your website:

“For me, one of the most underrated and often overlooked SEO ranking factors is refreshing content. It is vital to refresh your content based on user behaviour, feedback, new technologies (Featured snippets etc) and stock these days. While you are refreshing those pages update all the internal links and make sure that each link is helpful. Once this is done properly you can expect a boost in visibility and traffic.”

Third Party Backlinks

Backlinks from third party websites have been around as an SEO ranking factor for what feels like donkey’s years, however it is surprising how many people still underestimate their power in the SERPs. In 2022 backlinks are still one of the most influential ranking factors as Anastasia Letsos – SEO Manager at WayMore.io explains: “Links will continue to play an important role in SEO for 2022. Backlinking remains one of the most important factors in Google’s ranking system and personally, I think it’s one of those that is going to be around for a long time.”

Structured Data

Many of the SEO experts we approached have identified content and linking as hugely important ranking factors, and our SEO team couldn’t agree more. However, we also wanted to note that Structured Data is another factor that people often forget. Structured data is the markup that enables Google to understand how to interpret and display your content. Gary Hainsworth – our Senior Organic Data Specialist here at Koozai explains its significance:

“Structured data is being used across more platforms, and with development techniques changing, it provides a consistent way to deliver user friendly data. This helps with direct search results, enhanced search results like featured snippets, brand authority, accessibility and shopping results. While this may not push you forward for generic keywords, it helps greatly with high intent terms and user experience.”

Content Headings (H1s)

The headings and subheadings that you use in your content aren’t just useful for signposting to your audience. They are also key when it comes to showing engines what that content is all about. Given that the H1 tag is the first heading on a page, it often plays an important role when search engines crawl your website. Laura Condrut – SEO Manager at Contiki explains why it’s important and how it’s often underestimated: 

“I think one of the most underrated ranking factors is the H1, which often times coincides with the hero title of the page. This should be keyword-targeted and it should work in unison with the title tag, strengthening the topical relevancy and the keyword focus of the page. This is especially important now, since Google has updated their method of generating title tags and we know that they now place a much higher value on the visible title of a page and they use that to inform what gets displayed in search results. As SEOs, I think we sometimes get carried away and focus on super technical projects, like optimizing for the Core Web Vitals, and forget that there are actually small changes like this that can really have a big impact for our website’s organic performance.”

Google Business Profile

A Google Business Profile allows businesses to manage how their website shows up in local results across Google products such as Maps and Search. Anastasia Letsos – SEO Manager at WayMore.io explains why it’s a key ranking factor that you can’t afford to overlook in 2022:

“Google Business Profile is one trend your business needs to get on board with, in 2022 or you’ll miss out. We’ve witnessed how Google has transformed services and made them applicable to the changing times, with Google+ and Google Local being good examples. The latest changes have led to speculations that Google is changing pace from supporting small businesses and favouring large ones with multi-location businesses.”

Well, that’s it! I hope you have found the above information on the most underrated SEO ranking factors in 2022 useful for your digital strategy in 2022. If you have any thoughts on any of this, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you. And of course, if you need any support with your SEO or help on how to make your website rank competitively in 2022 then please do reach out to one of our SEO team.

 

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Kelly-Anne Crean

Client Services Manager

Client Services Manager and SEO super-star, Kelly-Anne has over 14 years’ experience in digital marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. During that time, Kelly-Anne has had the opportunity to work with a variety of exciting clients including the likes of De'Longhi (Braun), Srixon and the V&A. Queen of self-defence, in her personal life Kelly-Anne is passionate about Krav Maga! Having trained for over 8 years and earning her P5, we’re hoping should we ever need defending, Kelly-Anne is around! Very well-travelled with over 60 countries under her belt, the next big adventure is hiking the Inca Trail.

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